Everything's Different Overdose Changes Family 

Everything's Different Overdose Changes Family 
Posted by FoM on January 21, 2000 at 20:40:09 PT
By Maureen West, The Arizona Republic
Source: Arizona Central
A year before he overdosed on crystal meth, 27-year-old landscape designer Mark Scanlon walked into the emergency room. He knew he needed help for his drug problem, and he wanted to check himself into the hospital's psych ward. He waited for four hours, then left. He told his mother that the paperwork took too long - the second most common reason addicts don't get into treatment. The first is lack of money or insurance. 
A year later, at 10 o'clock one morning, Scanlon collapsed at work. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where he was resuscitated several times. He lived, but he would never be the same. Costs of Abuse: Most of the economic burdens of drug abuse fall on those who don't abuse drugs: 44 percent of the costs are borne by those who abuse and members of their families. 46 percent by federal, state and local governments. 3 percent by private insurance. 7 percent by victims of abusers. "When drug users are right there seeking help, you have to get them in a room and do something right now. It is such a short window," said his mother, Darrelyn Scanlon. "It was easier for him to go out and buy drugs on the street to relieve his pain than to wait there." She was speaking for her son, because he can no longer speak for himself. Every day, Darrelyn visits Mark at the Mesa nursing home where he lives. For the past five years, he has not been able to get out bed without help. He can eat only pureed food. He is more conscious than in years past, but that also seems to make him more depressed. Sometimes he cries, but he is unable to say why. "I don't know if he knows who he is or was," Darrelyn said. When Mark first was admitted to the hospital, he had two visitors. Neither of them would talk to her about her son's drug problem. Nor would they visit again. Darrelyn said she had no idea that her son was using drugs until she saw the hospital lab report. She thought he had been suffering from depression when he sought hospitalization the year before. "He was sometimes moody, but he was a busy single man," she said. She wonders if she unwittingly helped him buy drugs when she gave him money over the years. She wonders why she didn't see the trouble he was in. Mostly, she works at making Mark's life as good as it can be. The best she hopes for is that he can be moved to an adult-care home someday so he can be around younger people. The toll on her life from one man's drug abuse is heavy. She's single but doesn't go out much anymore. "Who would want to deal with me or this problem?" she asked. "I spend a lot of evenings crying alone." There are public costs, too. If Mark had gotten treatment before his crash, even from a private program, the costs might have been as much as $1,000 a day for several months or more. Certainly, it would have been less than Maricopa County and Medicare have paid since his overdose in 1995. Darrelyn estimates her son's care cost $150,000 the first month alone. Since 1995, the cost to taxpayers has totaled $500,000 to $600,000, she said. Mark's medical insurance didn't pay any of the bills because the policy excluded drug overdoses. His bills have been paid for under state programs for the indigent and the federal government's Medicare program. Darrelyn is in the medical insurance business; she helps desperate parents learn whether their policies cover substance abuse treatment. "The limit on substance abuse is usually about $10,000 or $20,000 per lifetime," she said. "With treatment (at) about $1,000 a day, including doctors appointments, that is 10 to 20 days." She understands why insurance companies don't want to pay for treatment for something that is self-inflicted. It isn't like paying for cancer. "But think of the costs later," she said. "I don't want Mark to be dead, but I don't wish him to be costing all these hundreds of thousands of dollars. "I didn't have a choice in this matter. And now that he is alive, there is no choice, either." When Darrelyn has the chance, she tries to persuade others to make the best of the choices they still have left. She urges parents whose children are experimenting with drugs to get them into treatment before they turn 18. After that, they must be full-time students to be covered under their parents' insurance. Nor can parents force their children into treatment after age 18. Twice, Darrelyn volunteered to persuade troubled teens to get help before it was too late. She took them to meet her son. "I want people to know that not all people die from drug overdoses," she said. "Some suffer brain damage, are hooked to a feeding tube and live in diapers." One of the teens quit drugs and is in college. She doesn't know what happened to the other. Published: January 22, 2000Copyright 2000, Arizona CentralRelated Articles:One Phoenix Sting Paid Off for Cops - Part 6 - 1/21/2000 Chance Led To Side Job as Arizona Drug Runner - 1/20/2000 Methods Have Place in Fight - 1/19/2000 Contest of Wits at U.S. Border - 1/18/2000 is Pipeline for Illegal Drugs - 1/17/2000 Losing Drug War - 1/16/2000 
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